Local News

Father to be charged in 4-year-old's death

Posted September 22, 2010

Joseph Mitchell and his son, Blake (Photo from Facebook)

— Close friends say that the family of a Durham County man accused of killing his 4-year-old son was facing hard financial times.

Joseph Anthony Mitchell, 46, of 17 Thistle Trace in Hillsborough, will be charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 4-year-old son, Blake, and two counts of attempted murder in connection with his 10-year-old son, Devon, and 13-year-old daughter, Lexi, according to Durham County Sheriff Worth L. Hill.

Authorities said that Blake died of asphyxiation. Mitchell tried to commit suicide and was hospitalized for self-inflicted wounds, Hill said. He was placed under guard at Duke Hospital and will be officially charged once released.

"This case, it's tragic. It's as simple as I can put it. It's just tragic," Lt. Stan Harris said.

A 911 call was placed around 12:30 a.m. from the home near the Durham-Orange county line, where Mitchell, his children, wife Christine and her father, Pete Perolini, lived.

In the 911 call, Blake's mother tries to resuscitate him, while Perolini, talks to dispatchers, and Mitchell has barricaded himself in another room.

"My grandson is 4 years old. My daughter is trying to break into a door," Perolini said. "We don't know if he's alive or not alive. We don't know what's going on."

Authorities haven't commented on a motive in the case. Investigators said they had trouble interviewing family members because they were so distraught.

Neighbors and family friends said that the Mitchells were a close family but were facing financial hardships.

Family friend Donna Tanzi described the Mitchells as "a very loving family" that "did everything together," including attending Saint Matthew Catholic Church in Durham."

According to court records, the family's house in the Hardscrabble Plantation subdivision was foreclosed on in mid-June. Friends said that Mitchell, an EMS worker, had been unemployed for about a year, and his wife was also out of work.

"He must have snapped," Tanzi said of Mitchell. "I think something may have happened to him, because he would never do this."

Neighbors said they're trying to process the child's death and will support the family in any way they can.

"They were very nice, loved their family," neighbor Ralph Sears said. "Right now, we just hope that we can help the family out any way, whether it's praying or food or whatever. It's just a sad day."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • cindytunstall28 Sep 24, 2010

    I understand the media has a job to do. However it would be nice to let the family have their time to come to grips with this.

  • soyousay Sep 23, 2010

    silly...Ask for help before you allow tangible objects or situations in your life to overwhelm you

    and where would all this help be?

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Sep 23, 2010

    Enough stress and pressure will cause one to become physically sick.

    Ask for help before you allow tangible objects or situations in your life to overwhelm you.

  • wildcat Sep 23, 2010

    but the media has a way of making everyone look bad. pumpkin/carolinawthr272

    If WRAL or other news source did not bring this information foward to the public, you would be highly complaining about that. Keep up the good works WRAL, and continue to bring us the news, even updates on past stories. Thanks. You cannot ever satisfy complainers. Don't even try.

  • Pumpkin Sep 23, 2010

    Carolinaswthrt272, I couldn't agree with you more. Their are larger issues to be concerned with and the main one should be the family, but the media has a way of making everyone look bad. I pray for the family and especially the children that will have to live with this tragic situation for the rest of their young lives. Lord, watch over and keep them.

  • rheingj Sep 23, 2010

    This is happening more and more in our society and it will continue to happen as long as this economic depression persist. You are hearing about these unfortunate situations more and more. I am saddened by this. People are not able to handle the pressure and lost of income, ability to survive and provide for your family does cause one to "snap"! For the person that said a "forclosure does not cause one to snap" You are dead wrong and far removed from what the rest of us is going thru. I can't imagine what the mother is going thru at this time. I am so sad to hear this....

  • wildcat Sep 23, 2010

    This was horrible and I hope he receives life in prison, and sees this child's face every day of his life.

  • carolinaswthrt272 Sep 23, 2010

    this was a horrible tragic situation. It's just amazing to me that this families entire personal/financial business is being spread all over the media. It's bad enough the surviving children lost a brother at the hand of their father, they nearly lost their own lives by the father, but now things they probably didn't even know were happening is being played out in the media. People should stop and think about those children and what they're going through. they've got a long hard road ahead of them, and now the mom is going to be stuck dealing with the aftermath, the loss of a child, traumatized children and no husband. Show some compassion people. who cares what they're financial situation was, what kind of house they lived in, none of that matters now. what matters is helping this family. We can throw out all kinds of blame on politics/government all day, but it doesn't change the end result.. A child is gone, and a family is suffering.

  • sssh.. whisper Sep 23, 2010


    Wow.. I hope one day you realize what kind of person you really are... You are in NO place to make any judgement on anyoone! The guy with the Escalade.. Maybe he's rich and just enjoys washing cars in parking lots, the mother that couldn't afford her home and who's husband went crazy and killed their son- maybe they had the money prior.. I don't wish this upon anyone.. maybe one day you will wake up from your dream world and realize that you aren't any better than anyone else.

  • lovethesouth1 Sep 23, 2010

    Foreclosure does not cause someone to kill their child or "snap" as it's put in this article. Mental illness does. This is very, very sad.